Refuse Refuse: Building Community One Piece of Trash at a Time

Refuse Refuse is a volunteer community effort to keep the city clean, founded by San Francisco resident Vincent Yuen in 2021.  In the first two years, the organization removed 526,110 gallons of trash from our neighborhoods. With a background in sales and marketing, Yuen became a stay-at-home Dad to two young children during the pandemic.  Recognizing the need to get them out of the house, he took them for daily walks for exercise and fresh air.  After spending time on the streets in his own neighborhood, he realized that refuse was a problem. Yuen believes that…

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Books and Reading

Books and reading are a lifelong habit for me.  While not every book I read (mostly novels but some non-fiction as well) has lasting literary value, reading is a wonderful source of entertainment and pleasure. Toward the end of the calendar year, critics, writers, readers, and review publications select their top books of the year.  I took a quick look at some of these lists and selected a few of the titles I had read and enjoyed over the past year.  The Washington Post 2023 “Best” list included a category for mysteries and thrillers.  And sure…

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Censorship and Book Banning

Libraries across the country are under threat, with a significant rise in censorship and book banning.  Library directors, individual librarians, and community leaders have all been under attack, including calls for resignation, and even bomb threats and other acts of violence. Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library, San Francisco 2010 Two of the principal reasons for banning books are titles with LGBTQI content, or books deemed to include sexual content, especially those written for children and youth.  Books written by women of color are also a frequent target.  During the school year…

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Celebrating a New Year

Twenty twenty-four has a certain ring to it, one that rolls easily off the tongue as we enter a new year.  It sounds like a promise of a good, solid year.  But life can be volatile and unpredictable.  Let us hope for continued economic prosperity and democracy, a healthy planet, and a more just and peaceful world. To celebrate the New Year, I hung out last week with family in our national Capitol, Washington, DC.   My grandson, 19-months old, woke up each morning in the next room, chattering to himself.  A sleeping cat occasionally shared the…

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It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

In homage to the late Fred Rogers, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  The sun is shining, the air is crisp, and there is not a rain cloud in sight.  The temperature reads in the high 50s, but thanks to the lack of wind, it feels more like 70. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was an extraordinary television program for children that aired on public television 1968 -2001.  He spoke not only to children in his ever-calming voice, but to parents and people of all ages as well.  Without being preachy, he shared lessons about how to…

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It’s That Time of Year

The catalogs have been arriving in the mail for months, because it’s that time of year.  The solicitations for charitable and political donations come in multiples every day, and even a few early holiday cards, letters, and invitations are trickling in.  The holiday season is upon us! The best holiday mail, of course, is personal:  the letters and cards that keep us in touch with family and friends, near and far.  I treasure these communications, and have trouble recycling them, even years after receipt.  The typical holiday letter has evolved over time.  These days, few people…

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To Feel Thankful

Not a day passes that I do not feel thankful for my good life.  We live in troubling times; but in the words of New York Times columnist David Brooks, “we should start every day with gratitude for the blessings we enjoy.” Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays.  In the past, my in-laws hosted Passover.  My parents, especially my mother, took great joy in doing Christmas.  Thanksgiving, however, was all mine.  The first year I cooked for family and friends, the mashed potatoes were lumpy and the turkey was dry.  Everything took longer…

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Historic Cemeteries

Much of our nation’s history can be found in historic cemeteries.  According to Greg Melville, author of the book Over My Dead Body:  Unearthing the Hidden History of America’s Cemeteries, there are about 144,000 historic cemeteries scattered throughout the country. San Francisco banned new burials within the confines of the City in the early 20th century.  By mid-century, city leaders again noted that the city was growing and that the cemeteries were taking up valuable land space.  Much has been written about how the city in the 1940s relocated 160,000 of the dead to the City…

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Underwater Post Offices Throughout the World

Post offices around the world can be charming, unique, or simply functional, but few places feature underwater post offices.  Swimming and letter writing are some of my favorite pastimes, but not necessarily together!  Only a few underwater post offices have survived, but they have their place in history. Twenty years ago, the small town of Risør, located in the south of Norway, constructed an underwater post office as a novelty for tourists.  Established by the local scuba diving club, it was billed as the only dry underwater post office in the world.  Constructed in the form…

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Scams and Fraud

Despite spam filters on our email and posted warnings from banks and other financial institutions, scams and fraud seem more prevalent today than ever.  Clearly, scams would not exist if they were not successful. Newly released (Feb. 2023) Federal Trade Commission data shows that consumers reported losing nearly $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, an increase of more than 30% over the previous year.  Topping the list are investment scams, followed by imposter scams. Scams and fraud seem to be hitting home.  Those poorly written, error filled emails such as the Nigerian Prince scam, which has…

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